Monthly Archives: June 2013

Walking the city

This morning was sunny and cool. We walked to the Yerba Buena gardens to absorb the smells and sights. Birds and butterflies and sweet smelling flowers, groups of people practising their Tai Chi, amidst the extraordinary buildings and water sculptures.

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We rode the elevators in Nordstroms (department store extrodinaire), many sounds, sights and smells of a different kind.

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We watched others riding the cable cars up Powell Street, (the queues were so long we decided not ride them ourselves!)

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Then later in the day we walked some more, through Chinatown, bright colourful lanterns, buildings and shops. Interesting smells of unfamiliar foods. Then on through the Italian restaurants of North Beach. The hilly ness was taking its toll as we walked along Lombard Street, with its steep zig zag bends down and then back up to climb the steps to Telegraph hill and the Coit tower. The reward was amazing views across the bay on this glorious day.

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The day was rounded off with drinks and light bites at the “Top of the Mark”, a cocktail bar and restaurant on the 19th floor of a hotel with 360 degree views across the city. We watched the sun go down across the Golden Gate Bridge and the lights twinkle all around, as (some) people danced to the live band. My feet are tired (again) 🙂

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Petaluma to San Francisco

Hotel Petaluma, down town historic building, in the process of being renovated. No Best Western this! Our room smelled and the bathroom was old and stained. We asked for a different room. No problem, it seemed they were used to complaints! We were immediately upgraded to a much nicer room, newly renovated but oozing “period features”. It had been a beautiful building once, and could be again. We explored the historic downtown, eating good food at the “Speak Easy”, where in the days of prohibition illegal liquor was obtained. The old buildings here told the story of the town and those early settlers. And we slept comfortably although it was a warm night.

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Next morning back on highway 101 to San Francisco. The turn off signs were becoming more Spanish and the sky was blue. But as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge the fog descended and we crossed in zero visibility.

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Over the bridge we emerged into sunshine and we began exploring the city on foot, taking a trolley car down to savour all the sights and sounds of Fisherman’s Wharf, including Alcatraz. The fog finally lifted from the bridge and we watched huge carrier ships come in across the bay.

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This city is full of buzz and beauty. Some amazing buildings old and new, and people in their infinite variety. Tomorrow we will explore some more, but for now my feet are tired.

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Journeying southward…

The beach is covered with mist this morning as we check out, but as soon as the road climbs the sun slants through tall trees. Bright orange flowers line the roads and elk gather in groups.
Up and down, sun shines and the sky is blue as the road ascends, and then down into misty cloud as we descend nearer the sea.

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We make a quick stop at Trinidad Bay to watch the mist lifting from around the stacks, and the curving surf on the beautiful deserted beach. And the sky is clearing into Californian blue as we stop in old down town Eureka for brunch scrambagels.

Then further south down 101 we turn off the freeway on to the scenic route through the Avenue of the Trees. Giant redwoods old and new, tall and straight, some fallen with fantastic root formations. We walk the Founders Trail, feeling buzzing in the air from many unseen insects, and awe in our hearts at the immensity of the age and size of some of these trees.

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Ever southwards we drive, through hot dry valleys with wide stoney bedded rivers. Yellow dried up grass under blue sky. Hot and dry. We reach the Sonoma Valley with vineyards lining the road. Winding down through hills of yellow, towering brown crags, with eagles circling like black dots. The river plains carpeted with strings of vines stretching out across the fields, olive trees and pointed cypresses.

Then turning off the freeway we find our overnight hotel in downtown Petaluma.

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A long drive

We leave Seattle early travelling through the evergreen state along high way five. The roar and rumble of trucks whining as we pass them, the railway track runs between the the two carriageways and the wide river flows along side as we approach Portland.

The volcanic mountain range running east of this route is hidden to day, with Mount Rainier and Mount St Helen’s beneath the clouds. The pull ins for washrooms, are surrounded by tall trees and the sweet smell of pines, rain dripping firs. Free coffee being provided by the local Presbyterian church (for a donation) but I didn’t try it.

Across the Columbia river, into Oregon state. Portland city’s high rises visible from the freeway bridges. We continue on without stopping, as the free way winds through the suburbs. Three lanes of traffic just keep on going. Now past Salem and Albany on the wider plain with ploughed fields and small farmsteads. Golden ripples of wet cut hay, a field of sheep, and grazing cattle.

Large motor homes trundle, and meandering slow unaware drivers block the “fast” lane causing irritation to drivers wanting to get a a move on. Trucks line the inside lane, pulling out to overtake and slow the pace.

Past Eugene and Springfield, more farmsteads and barns, backed by hills and conifers. Climbing higher now past Roseburg, arbutus trees with red bark along the road, farms hide away in deep valleys and logging trucks grind up the steeper hills.

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Then the highway begins to cut through rocks and cliffs, layered with tall trees. Our ears pop as we gradually climb towards Grants Pass. Clear cut logging scars high above us, the increasing deciduous and arbutus trees among the conifers add increasing colour and texture to the dark green of further north. Bright flashes of pink, flowering roses or wild peas it is hard to tell as we speed by. The grass is yellow suggesting rainfall levels are lower here, although today is overca
Off the freeway now the highway is winding, through dry looking forest and small communities. Odd ball wooden shacks on wide acres, with rusting cars. These communities feel out of the way and we wonder who chooses to live here. Oregon gives way to California, and stoney bedded creeks run alongside the road. An information board when we stop to take a break suggests what brought the first pioneers. Gold in the rivers!
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After nine hours on the road we drive through trees, with increasing height and girth, suggesting we are nearing the coast. Like curtains parting, the trees give way to the wide view of the ocean at Crescent City. The Pacific surf rolls mistily in toward us, as we sit outside our motel rooms with a relaxing drink, followed by a satisfying supper of fish and chips.
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Colourful goodies

We crossed the border early, and then drove down the freeway into the the “Evergreen State” of Washington USA. The mountains were shrouded in grey blue mist, but the clouds lifted as we reached Seattle.

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We walked through the colourful food and artisan stalls of Pike Place Market.

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We learned some fascinating and colourful history about the founding and building of Seattle on the Underground tour, and then we took a trip on the mono rail to the Space tower. We enjoyed more eyefuls of colour at the Dale Chihuly glass exhibition and were excited to find the artist himself sitting in the restaurant where we stopped to eat. His creations are jaw droppingly beautiful.

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Train music – Sedoka

Sad sounds of train horns
Moan a minor chord warning
Road crossing barrier ahead

Long rail tracks carry
Endless trucks continent wide
Interrupted by small towns.

The sounds of the train horns can be heard through the day and night here in Fort Langley as the Canadian Pacific Railway runs through the town. It is a haunting sound which is both musical and mysterious as the pitch changes with the approach and passing of the train. My experience of the train is fleeting, as it passes and is gone, but the train itself is extremely long and the rail track crosses the continent. So I have tried writing in a form called a Sedoka (click on the link for full explanation) which notices a scene from two different perspectives.

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Photos http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Pacific_Railway

Lunch in North Vancouver

It was sunny enough for breakfast outside this morning, and then we headed off west along highway one towards Vancouver. We crossed the Fraser River, and over the bridge to North Vancouver, a part of the city built under the mountains on the far shores of the Burrard Inlet, across from downtown Vancouver.
We watched the sea bus ferrying passengers backwards and forwards from the city to Lonsdale Quay Market. We had fun wandering around the international food hall, savouring the smells of the different food stalls. Finally chosing a Mexican lunch we ate under now cloudy skies, looking across the water to the high rise buildings of downtown, and the white sails of Canada Place built for Expo in 1986.20130623-202319.jpg
These areas of North and West Vancouver have a background of beautiful jagged mountains, still with some snow on them even in June. The smart houses and commercial developments lead down to the water, and fringes of beaches lined with driftwood. We walked out on little wooden jetties looking out over the Lions Gate Bridge, and watched seals as fishermen pulled in crabs.
Later we drove back through the wide streets of downtown Vancouver, glimpses of water and mountains at each street corner. This is a beautiful city even on a grey day.

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